Effects of soil variability and weather conditions on pesticide leaching - A farm-level evaluation

B.J. Van Alphen, J.J. Stoorvogel

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In line with European regulations, Dutch law imposes an environmental threshold of 0.1 μg L−1 on pesticide concentrations in ground water. During registration, the risk of exceeding this threshold is assessed through simulations for one or a few standard scenarios that do not reflect spatial variability under field conditions. The introduction of precision agriculture, where soil variability is actively managed, can increase control over pesticide leaching. This study presents a step-wise evaluation of the effects of soil variability and weather conditions on pesticide leaching. The evaluation was conducted on a 100-ha arable farm and aimed at identifying opportunities for precision management. As a first step, a relative risk assessment identified pesticides presenting a relatively high risk to the environment. Second, the effect of weather conditions was analyzed through 20 years of simulations for three distinct soil profiles. Results were summarized in cumulative probability plots to provide a probabilistic characterization of historical weather data. The year matching 90% probability (1981) served as a reference to simulate pesticide leaching from 612 soil profiles. After interpolation, areas where concentrations exceeded the environmental threshold were identified. Out of a total of 19 pesticides, isoproturon [N-dimethyl-N′-(4-(1-methylethyl)phenyl)urea], metribuzin [4-amino-6-tert-butyl-3-(methylthio)-as-triazin-5(4H)-one], and bentazon [2,1,3-benzothiadiazin-4(3H)-one, 3-isopropyl-, 2,2-dioxide] showed the highest risk for leaching. Leaching was strongly affected by soil variability at the within-field, field, and farm levels. Opportunities for precision management were apparent, but depended on the scale level at which environmental thresholds were implemented. When legislation is formulated in this issue, the presented step-wise evaluation can serve as a basis for identification and precision management of high-risk pesticides.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-805
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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